In any country… baseball of faith is attractive

Japanese baseball was in good spirits with a dramatic come-from-behind victory on the way to the final stage. Baseball fan’s favorite code formed an ensemble. 

Japan won 6-5 in the semifinal match against Mexico at the 2023 WBC held at Rondipo Park, Florida, USA on the 21st (Korean time). As the U.S. advanced to the finals first, it was able to aim for its third championship following the first in 2006 and the second in 2009. 

The opponent is ‘Goblin Team’ Mexico. After beating the United States 11-5 in the first round, they narrowly beat England 2-1. However, in the quarterfinals, they won over Puerto Rico, who survived the group of death (group D) (score 5-4), showing their potential as a semifinalist in the tournament. 

They also beat Japan in the semi-finals on the same day. In the beginning of the 4th inning, Luis Urias hit a three-run home run against ‘perfect pitcher’ Rocky Sasaki to take the lead, and in the bottom of the 7th inning, Masataka Yoshida hit a home run to tie the game, and Randy Arozarena and Alex Verdugo in an immediate attack. The hard hitters belonging to Aldong (American League East Division) took the lead again, hitting hits one after another. They led 5-4 by the 8th inning. 

Japan’s come-from-behind drama began with ‘Superstar’ Shohei Ohtani, who took the lead at the end of the 9th inning. He pulled a changeup outside the first pitch (based on a left-handed hitter) of Giovanni Gallegos, a Mexican closer, and split it into the middle right. It showed a light and accurate swing as if aiming at a position where there was no fielder. 

After taking off his helmet and running, he roared toward the dugout after stepping on second base, hoping to boost the morale of the Japanese players. 

Another major leaguer, Yoshida, got a walk against Gallegos and stepped up as a come-from-behind runner. And the highlight of this game and the famous scene of this tournament came out. Murakami Muneta, who had only 4 hits in 17 at-bats in the previous 5 games, came to bat. 

Murakami is also famous among Korean baseball fans. He is a player who hit 56 home runs in the Japanese league in the 2022 season, setting a new record for the most home runs in a Japanese single season. He even achieved the youngest triple crown (batting average, home run, RBI). The firepower of the Japanese cleanup trio, led by Ohtani, Murakami, and Yoshida, was evaluated as not inferior to North and Central American countries. 

However, Murakami was sluggish throughout this tournament. A Japanese media outlet also took the view that Murakami, who was conscious of Ohtani, was experiencing a problem with the batting balance. Even among Japanese fans, there was a voice of bolmen. 

Against Mexico that day, Murakami struck out three in the preceding four at-bats. In the fourth at-bat after Yoshida hit a 3-run homer to tie the game at the end of the 7th inning, Kim-sae retired with a pop fly. 

In the 5th at-bat at the end of the 9th inning with Otani and runner Yukyo Shuto on base, Murakami hit Gallegos’ 151km/h four-seam fastball and split the middle left. When Ohtani turned third, all the Japanese players in the dugout ran out to the ground. predicted victory. Home-in to the quick shoto. Just like that, the game was over. As if a burden had been lifted off his heart, Murakami hugged his colleagues and shared their joy.    

Coach Hideki Kuriyama chose a strong attack. There was no sacrifice bunt in his mind. He believed that Murakami would bring victory to Japan. Rather, Murakami was worried about bunting voluntarily. Living up to his beliefs, Murakami thanked his command tower after the match. Ohtani, who opened the chance to turn around, praised his junior, saying, “Murakami must have had a hard time, but he made a really good swing at the end. I thought he would hit it if I got on base.” 

Murakami’s reversal against Mexico reminded me of Lee Seung-yeop, who led Korea to victory against Japan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Lee had been sluggish with a batting average in the 10% range before, but hit a come-from-behind two-run home run against Hitoki Iwase in the 8th inning of the semifinal match against Japan, 2-2. He had tears in his eyes after the match and expressed his gratitude towards the then national team coach Kim Gyeong-moon. 

I am not trying to compare Korea’s national hitter with Japan’s Shinsei Geopo, who has only played 553 games (5 seasons). They are also players that are difficult to get rid of no matter what coach takes the baton. However, even considering this point,바카라사이트 Murakami’s home run on the day when ‘baseball of faith’ shined was strong and attractive. It was all the more so because it was the result of the Japanese baseball team, which is good at analysis enough to be called ‘microscopic baseball’, selected based on emotion rather than reason. 

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